Into the Wild with Laurence-Anne

Photo Credit: Geneviève Grenier

Album titles can be a tricky thing to finalize. Along with its cover, an album’s title will ideally evoke some sense of what to expect when you listen to it. With Première apparition, Montreal singer-songwriter Laurence-Anne picked the most vividly descriptive title that I’ve heard in quite some time. Released in February 2019, her debut album title suggests the existence of an otherworldly nature to the artist’s particular set of alternative pop songs.

“It’s a mystical first apparition; it’s mysterious,” Laurence-Anne explains. “I also like the word play of ‘première apparition.' When we recorded the album, we said this is what it’s gonna be called.” Listening to the record transports you to a world filled with animal sounds and exotic instrumentation that brings the graphic imagery of Laurence-Anne’s lyrics to life. Première apparition doesn’t just create a world you can inhabit, but a whole ecosystem filled with volcanoes and carnivorous plants. Songs like “Yeux-bactérie” and “Dents de scie” twist burning passion into some of nature’s most dangerous phenomena, including infections and fires. If the events in the movie 28 Days Later ever became a reality, the jubilant mutant funk of “C’est un virus” should be the theme song for the end times.

Originally hailing from Kamouraska, a municipality on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River in Bas-Saint-Laurent with a population of less than 600 people, Laurence-Anne notes that there wasn’t much in the way of distractions or activity while growing up. Luckily, what her hometown lacked in excitement was made up by its serenity and proximity to nature, giving the artist plenty of time to develop her distinctive song-writing style. "In fact, I think it helps to come from a region like that which is really in nature,” Laurence-Anne says, “you see the river, you have mountains too, large spaces. I think the fact that there is a lot of scenery directly influences a lot of the lyrics. There are always references to water. I think if I had grown up in Montreal, I wouldn’t have had that landscape aspect there.”

Even if the album sounds like it came out of a vacuum, devoid of chasing current trends, Laurence-Anne has a set of influences that feed into her work. In particular, the artist describes the music of Feist, Montreal duo Thus Owls, and plenty of Latin music as being integral parts in her development as a songwriter. Laurence-Anne is even interested in writing music in Spanish, which she speaks, considering her belief that language shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to music.

“My goal with the project,” the artist explains, “is to make sure that the music overcomes language. I don’t want it to be a project that sounds francophone. Yes, it’s in French, but the musical side is more exploratory, and as you mentioned it gets out of those barriers a bit.”

For such richly detailed soundscapes, it’s surprising that Première apparition was recorded live in-studio in only two days. Thanks to her third-place finish in 2017’s Les Francouvertes music discovery competition, Laurence-Anne and her band were awarded time in a studio to record a single. But the musicians figured they should make the most of their time and bang out a full-length album instead, making the record as singular as it is. "I think I see it more like an oeuvre that happened at a precise moment,” Laurence-Anne explains, “and I don’t think it would have been the same thing if we did it in a different location or at another moment where we had more time. It really was like a creation where we were there, and it came out like that. It was recorded live with a few overdubs, but I think it was really a good moment.”

When it comes to bringing Laurence-Anne’s project to life, the artist admits much credit is due to her backing band. Laurence-Anne’s songs always begin with just her, though taking it from its skeletal form to finished product falls to both the artist and her backing band of five (Naomie De Lorimier on synth/backing vocals, David Marchand on bass/guitar/pedal steel, Laurent St-Pierre on drums/percussion, Étienne Côté on percussion/marimba/piano/synth, and Ariel Comptois on saxophone). Each band member brings their touch,” Laurence-Anne explains. "I really leave a lot of liberty to the artists. I think I also chose people who inspire me and who have a sound I like together. It’s really them who deal with the arrangements part.”

While Laurence-Anne already has several shows already under her belt this year, the artist says she’s not certain about what’s to come in the future; though she reveals that a future goal would be to play in France and travel with the album. “I don’t know how things will unfold,” Laurence-Anne says, “but I would like to tour this album as much as I can. Of course, I already can't wait to return to the studio to make another album.”

If it only took two days for Laurence-Anne to create one of 2019’s best albums, I can only imagine what she’ll do with at least three.


Alex Viger-Collins is the host of Ashes to Ashes, your weekly dose of modern pop, every Tuesday at 8:00 p.m.